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Culture, Music

Rock the Block

by Andrei Van Wyk / Images by Paris Brummer / 11.11.2011

The concept of Halloween has never really made sense to me, in a South African context. A few kids running around their suburbs, trick or treating, trying to get the vibe on. Kind aunties waiting with bowls of sweets next to a door bell that never rings. There just isn’t enough momentum for Halloween in South Africa. But it always seems to provide the impetus for a good jol. Walking into Town Hall I hear hard dubstep blasting from The Woods and reverberating off the thin glass which separates the two venues. The atmosphere inside is buzzing. Men dressed like the mad hatter and girls as dead brides. Looking at the floor in front of the stage, one would think it was the zombie apocalypse.

A lot of people are running around showing off their outfits. Others stand silently watching Shortstraw and sway from side to side as their blend of pop, Afro-beat and indie run through the ears of every zombie, Joker and corpse bride. As the air gets warmer, the makeup runs. Tonight is less gloomy. The bar is full and drinks are spilled with abandon onto the blood stains on a drunken caveman’s loincloth.

Converse Block Party - Sweaty Kids

Moving through to the alleyway to the Converse stage, the air is punctuated by the sweet smell of marijuana. Cape Town natives Mr. Sakitumi and Sibot are releasing a full on hip hop electronica onslaught, reminiscent of Knxwledge and Autechre, with incessant beat juggling and samples that leave the crowd jumping to every drumbeat. Beer flows down the drain next to the stage as broken nurses and robots bathe themselves in a dirty river of wine and Black Label.

Soon a huge rumble comes from inside. Like thunder. Like elephants fighting. The Griet and Band stages begin to wrestle each other for the crowd. Everyone starts moving from outside to inside. A tall Amy Winehouse zombie pushes and pulls through the crowd as a thick bassline runs through a thumping kick drum. A small guitarist and lanky vocalist dressed as The Parlotones and eating KFC chicken slowly walk around on the stage and begin to dance. Desmond and the Tutus, though not the headliners, have brought their followers with them. The crowd bop their heads as vocalist Shane moves his arms around and hypnotises them. With songs like “Good and Guilty”, “Pictures” and “Peter” they soon get the crowd flailing arms and legs as more dead nurses and werewolves work it out on the dance floor. The ground shudders with the sound of a thousand broken high heels and torn sneakers.

Converse Block Party - Desmond & The Chicken Eaters

Just on the other side of the thick wall behind Craig’s drumkit there is a small man behind a sound desk. Ebanhaezer Smal AKA Haezer has become a leading light in the SA dance scene with his brand of hard-hitting electro and mosh-pit. The walls vibrate as his fingers incite dance brutality and irregular heartbeats from the crowd, who jump and punch the air to the hardcore trash synth and sadistic drums. And this was just a glimpse of what the rest of the evening would hold with French outfit Stereoheroes, who pull in with a fiery Fidget influenced techno with eccentric drums and samples and an intensity that matches acts lke Lords of Acid.

Something about dressing on Halloween causes people to let rip in the best way. And while beer foams out the mouths of the deranged animals, howling as they run up and down the alleyways, there is also space and time to get a drink, have a chat and just kick back and enjoy the music. Just one of those special Joburg nights where the default stupidity was overruled by the city’s festive spirit.

Converse Block Party - Flintstones

Converse Block Party - Wooo

Converse Block Party - Grab That Candy

Converse Block Party - Where's Spongebob?

Converse Block Party - Mr & Mrs Pac

Converse Block Party - Some Band

Converse Block Party - Occupy Your Mom

Converse Block Party - Smoking Kills

*All images © Paris Brummer.

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